In the Bull of Indiction for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote: “How many pages of Sacred Scripture are appropriate for meditation during the weeks of Lent to help us rediscover the merciful face of the Father!” It was my hope in writing these “Mysteries of Mercy” to use instances in the life of Jesus to illustrate the merciful love the Father extends to us here and now. To make them more personal, I wrote them as if in the voice of God the Father. (Most of the insights are not my own but have been taken from books, spiritual direction, etc.) Yet I hope they reveal something of Abba, the Father of mankind, for whom these reflections are written, and I dedicate them also to Br.Canice McMullen, who encouraged me to write them, and through whom I have experienced the mercy of God.
1. Jesus Cleanses the Leper
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you want it, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I do will it” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. (Matt. 8:1-3)
God the Father:
My child, I want you to know that My will for you is full of mercy. Though My will for you often entails sacrifice and suffering, it is for your welfare, healing and safety that I lead you in the way that I do. My will for you is not only for your spiritual development, but also an act of clemency through which I prevent worse situations or events from effecting your life and heart. When you seek to know and follow My will, you can feel secure in the assurance that I want what is most merciful and beneficial to you. Are you confused by what I have permitted to happen to you, My child? Are there experiences in your life that seem detrimental to your wellbeing? Bring them to Me.
Jesus was not disgusted by the leper’s skin and wounds. He touched him without hesitation or disgust, and healed him. It is the same with Me – I am not disgusted by anything in you, not even the things you feel sickened by. You can bring anything to Me, you can show Me any defect or wound you carry. There is only mercy and compassion in My Heart for you.
2 .The Cure of the Paralytic
And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. (Matt. 9:1-8)
God the Father:
My child, like the paralytic, you will at times find yourself in a state of helplessness. Sometimes you will be helpless in controlling your external circumstances, and sometimes you will be helpless in improving your personal spiritual state. Sometimes the only thing you will be able to do is receive the charity of others and the forgiveness of My Son. Remember My child, that you are not your own savior, and you are not your own sanctifier. My grace is what is essential, and it is better to depend on that than on your performance.
Do not be repulsed by your need for help. Accept as an extension of My mercy those I have put in your life to assist you, love you and help you. Is there something about yourself you do not like and cannot change? Bring it to your Creator, dear child, and accept your helplessness. You will always be capable of receiving My forgiveness.
3. The Call of Matthew
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him… (Matt. 9:9-10)
God the Father:
It is My mercy that calls you away from what makes you unhappy and preoccupies you to spend more time with Me.
Love does not make comparisons My child. I do not examine and evaluate one soul by holding it up to another to contrast their similarities and differences, weaknesses and strengths. Every heart is unique and precious to Me. I made every heart for union with Me, and I do not prefer a heart that is already virtuous to those hearts still occupied with the things of the world.
You do not have to be holy to have an intimate friendship with your God; it is having an intimate relationship with Him that will make you holy. All of My children are sinners; so there are only humble sinners who are close to Me, or proud sinners who remain distant from Me. Do not think you are unworthy to be close to Me, to be a soul that relates to Me intimately and with confidence. Do not think I have others who are better than you, who are more desired than you. No one else can give Me the kind of love you have to offer but you.
4. The Sinful Woman anoints Jesus’ feet
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner… brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you… A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.”… Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” (Lk.7:36-47)
God the Father:
My child, love cancels a multitude of sins. If you were to give someone a thousand pounds of led, and just ten pounds of gold, which would he notice more and be pleased by? In the same way, with a little love, many wrongs can be expiated. Never think I look more at your sins than I do at your love.
When you do sin, let your regret incite a more passionate and unreserved love for Me. Let your continual mistakes forge a love determined not to let anything separate you from Me, a love resolved to utilize your every failure by turning it into something that unites us more fully. Those who are forgiven more tend to love more, and I would like you to know this so that no failure on your part will ever cause you to loose hope.
Remember too dear soul that, as with the sinful woman who felt both grief and guilt, I am often pleased with you when you are not pleased with yourself and when others are judging you unmercifully. How you or others feel is not usually a reflection of how I feel. I never look more at your sins than I do at your love.
5. Jesus calls the weary and burdened to Himself
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
God the Father:
My children are often driven by the world or by themselves in a way that is too hard. I want to give you rest. I have different expectations of you than the world has of you. I want you to rest, I want you to experience My peace. I do not consider rest to be a waste of time. Come to Me when you are burdened, and do not feel guilty for taking time to rest in Me when this is something so pleasing to Me.
I am mercy, and I never ask of you more than is possible. If you have more to do than you have time to do, you are trying to do more than My will for you. Because something is a good thing to do does not automatically mean that it is My will that you do it.
If you have a gentle and humble heart, this will prevent you from overly-striving, trying to prove your worth, and trying to compensate for what you lack. Come to Me so I can make up for what you lack. Rest in your Father who does not want you to remain driven, over-burdened and self-reliant.
1. Jesus and the woman at the well
Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”…The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”… Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? … Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn. 4:6-14)
God the Father:
My child, out of mercy I often give graces and insights that come to you at unexpected times, and even at times when you are not disposed to receive them. Take a moment to look back on significant graces you have experienced that you did nothing to merit. I have given you encounters with Me when you were not seeking Me, and I have guided you when you were not consulting Me, and I have blessed you with gifts, opportunities and friends that you did not ask for.
I love you more than you love yourself, and want more for you than what you seek for yourself, especially when you are seeking satisfaction in earthly things that increase your thirst. Try to turn your focus from a horizontal outlook by elevating your vision to being vertical. I will not take away your thirst and longing, but I will transform it so that it becomes sweeter, and it will well up from love rather than emptiness.
2. Parable of the Prodigal Son
He said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me’… and the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want… when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!’… And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him… the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’
Now his elder son was in the field; and as he drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing… But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command… But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (Lk.15:11-32)
God the Father:
My child, sometimes your soul will be drawn away from Me because it is so strongly pulled towards the good things I have given you. At other times, you will withdraw because you believe I am asking too much of you, and you resent having so much expected of you.
Can you see what separates you from Me? Have you used the gifts I have given you for your own gain and reputation? Have you loved the gifts more than the Giver? Do you at times think I ask much of you and give little in return? That my expectations are unfair?
Perhaps you struggle with selfishness, like the younger son. Perhaps you struggle more with pride, like the older son. Even these are not obstacles that will keep Me from you. I approach both those who are afraid of Me and those who are angry with Me.
I never give up on anyone.
Who have you given-up on, My child? There are sinners in the world that seem to have gone too far into sin and darkness to convert. There are priests and others in the Church who have for decades been bitter and seem too hard of heart to change. I ask you, please do not to give up on them. Pray for them, and obtain grace for their hearts, so that they will respond the next time their merciful Father approaches them to convince them of His love.
3. The Woman Caught in Adultery
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (Jn. 8:3-11)
God the Father:
My child, not only do I refrain from condemning you, I ask that you not even judge or condemn yourself. What I want for you is conversion. Many think of conversion as being something unpleasant, rigorous and harsh. But true conversion is an experience freedom, true peace and deeper love. Conversion is something beautiful, and I want to give this to you every day.
Let your conversion begin by becoming free of judging and rejecting others. The weight and responsibility of judgment is not yours, nor is it asked of you to treat others according to their culpability. Be merciful even if the person does not deserve it. Mercy includes showing kindness and forgiveness to those whom it is seemingly within one’s right and capacity to punish.
Punishment rarely leads to conversion. Do not, My child, punish others through unforgiveness. Those who are most difficult to love are the ones that need love the most. Mercy always gives the offender a second chance.
If you find yourself unable to forgive, perhaps it is because some part of you believes I judge you for judging, or because you have judged and condemned yourself. You are also to be given a second chance, My child. Remember that it is as impossible for you to render a just judgment on yourself as it is for you to justly judge others. It is not for anyone who has sinned to condemn. Neither do I condemn you…
Remember that I am no less compassionate and merciful towards you when your misery and pain is self-inflicted and brought on by your own doing than when you are innocent.
4. Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican
He also told this parable…“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
God the Father:
My child, do you see how My Heart prefers humility to perfection? Do you see how contrition is more pleasing to Me than precision, living ideally, and practicing observance without compromise? Those who put all their energy and efforts into making themselves perfect, though they may be deceived into believing they do it for Me, are doing it mostly for their own sake. Humility, recognition of and contrition for the ways you love yourself to the exclusion of loving your God and neighbor, communicates love for Me far more than satisfaction in your accomplishments, uprightness and personal discipline.
Do not be disheartened if you see in yourself the presence of pride. Do not conclude that this means you do not have humility. If humility was being free of pride, it would be unsustainable, since every person wounded by original sin suffers from pride, and pride easily enters into the practice and recognition of humility. But you do not need to be free of pride to be humble, as part of humility is recognizing and being humbled by the pride in you. That is why the Publican, who was truly a sinner and was less observant than the Pharisee, was justified – being aware of and sorry for his pride and sins, he was humble.
Believe Me when I assure you My child, that I do not seek perfection in you, and that your struggle with pride is not something displeasing to Me, as long as your awareness of it humbles you, and brings about the contrition that I prefer to perfection.
5. The Prediction of Peter’s Denial
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times. But let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” (Jn. 13:36-14:1)
God the Father:
My child, in human weakness, there is the tendency to both think of yourself as better than you really are, and as worse than you really are. This tendency can also effect the conceptions you have about your future, inclining you to either idealize future accomplishments and holiness, or believing yourself already a failure and someone who will not live up to My call. Humility is simply living in the truth, which is in the middle.
Do you feel far from what you had expected from yourself by this time My child, and far from what you perceived I intended you to be by now? Are you afraid that you will fail to accomplish the mission for which you were intended?
The bad decisions and mistakes you have made and will make do not eradicate the plan I have for you. Your human impediments, obstructions and impairments will not hinder Me from using you to accomplish My plan if you believe in Me unconditionally. I know the mistakes you have made and will make. I know which sins you are inclined towards, and the times you will fail to cooperate with grace in the future, and I am still not prevented from bringing about what I have destined you for. I know the worst things you will do, and still I ask you to not let your heart be troubled; you have every reason for confidence, not because of who you are, but because of Who I am. So even when you fail in a way that feels irreparable, believe in My mercy and power to repair and redeem all. Have confidence that this error will be used to make you a more effective servant and even further more perfectly the mission I entrust to you. Look not at your strength or at your ineptitude, but only at My supremacy and goodness, and put your future in My hands.